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November 20th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Arboretum”, put simply, is a game about trees.  Lots and lots of pretty, colorful looking trees.  Your goal?  Score the most points at the end of the game by creating the best looking & most luxurious arboretum.  To do that, you’ll have to place cards in front of you in a grid-like fashion which will ultimately create various paths that will be scored at the game’s end.  However, players have to earn the right to score a specific tree type in the first place based on what’s in their hands.  Will you bark up the right tree and succeed in making something glorious, or will you make a like a tree and “get out of here”?  Sorry, I watched “Back to the Future” recently…I couldn’t resist.



Arboretum: 2-4 Players, Ages 8+, Average Play Time = 30 Minutes



The game includes 80 cards in 10 different colors (numbered 1 to 8), a score pad, and a rule book.

Setup & Gameplay

Firstly, some colors may be removed from the game depending on the number of players. Each player receives seven cards from the shuffled deck to form their starting hand (the rest of the cards form a draw deck).  One card is also drawn face-up from the deck for each player so that they may begin their own personal discard pile (each player will have their own arboretum and discard pile).  The player who last watered a plant goes first.

On a player’s turn, they’ll:

1. Draw two cards – The active player may take two cards from anyone’s face up discard pile or the deck.

2. Play a card – The active player plays a card from their hand to their arboretum, placing it adjacent to an existing card.  Cards can not be covered up or moved.

3. Discard a card – The active player will discard a card from their hand into their personal discard pile.  At the end of their turn, they’ll have seven cards in their hand.

Play continues clockwise until the deck runs out.  The player who triggered this finishes their turn as normal, and then scoring occurs.

During the scoring phase, each tree type is looked at on the score pad, one at a time.  The player who has the highest sum of a particular tree IN THEIR HAND has the right to score a single path in their arboretum. The exception is if someone has an “8” but someone else has a “1” of the same color…the “8” is reduced to “0”.  If no one has cards of a particular color in their hand, then they all score it.

To score a color, players will attempt to find the best path in order to score the most points.  In a path, each card must be greater in value than the one preceding it.  A path starts and ends with a card of the color being scored, though cards in between can be of any color.  Each card in a path is one point.  Players score one additional point for each card in the path if it is made up of at least four cards and they are all the same color.  Players also score one additional point if the path starts with “1” and two additional points if the path ends in “8”.  It’s okay if a tree is used in more than one path.  The player with the most points once all tree colors are scored, wins the game!

Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.

The Review

“Arboretum” is one of those games that is very easy to play…draw two cards, play one, discard one, and boom you’re done.  The way this game scores however takes some getting used to.  You see, a player may have the longest and highest scoring path of a particular color in their arboretum but if they don’t have the highest sum of that card color in their hand then they can’t score it.  On top of that, a path must contain cards to where each is higher in value than the one preceding it AND the first & last card in that path must be of the color you’re scoring.  Players get additional points too in various circumstances.  Honestly, it’s a lot to keep track of.

“Arboretum” is very interesting as card games go, focusing heavily on card management (both in your hand AND in your personal grid).  Paying attention to what other players are playing and discarding is helpful too, since the “1” and “8” cards mean something in both a player’s hand and on the table.  It’s a beautiful game, not to mention fun to play.  The cards themselves are of good quality too.  Assuming you can find a copy of this game at a price you’re comfortable paying, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it.  It was out of print for the longest time but recently came back into stock at places like Cool Stuff Inc. and Miniature Market for about $12-$15.  The prices on Amazon will vary, having reached $30 at one point.  I’d say $15-$20 would be fair for what you’re getting here.

Final Verdict: 8/10


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